Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join my friend and colleague, Southwest Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith, at the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance’s annual meeting in Kingsport. Coal is an important source of domestic energy. Did you know that coal provides nearly 40 percent of America’s electricity and is used in 48 states? In fact, the United States has more coal than any other country. Despite the abundance of this key resource, the Obama administration is determined to bankrupt the coal industry. In 2008, then-Senator Obama touted his opposition of the coal industry to the San Francisco Chronicle saying, “If somebody wants to open a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that I will bankrupt them.”
Last year, President Obama unveiled a controversial “Clean Power Plan” to cut carbon emissions from existing coal-powered plants 30 percent by 2030. This approach to curbing emissions is so unpopular with Congress and the American people that the president couldn’t get a Democrat-controlled House and Senate to pass a similar plan — the infamous Cap-and-Tax bill — back in 2009. According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the coal industry has invested nearly $120 billion to reduce emissions by 90 percent, but the administration is determined to push the standards to unachievable levels. In fact, the administration punishes the industry when it reduces emissions voluntarily by not counting emissions reductions that have been achieved towards future targets. It seems clear to anyone who has been paying attention to the EPA that the goal of their regulations is not to reduce emissions — it’s to end the use of coal as an energy source.
While I agree that we should be good stewards of the environment, it’s foolish to punish an industry that Americans depend on, particularly when many other countries — particularly China — are continuing to build coal-fired power plants to meet their energy needs. I am skeptical of the president’s claim that the rest of the world will follow our example on implementing similar standards.
The president’s proposal won’t just affect the coal industry; consumers also lose under this proposal. Some studies predict that there will be double-digit electricity rate hikes in 43 states, with 14 states seeing increases of more than 20 percent. Going into the summer months, many American families count on electricity to cool their homes. At a time when many are still struggling to make ends meet, it’s reckless to push policies that will burden families with higher electric bills. In Tennessee, 34 percent of families live below the poverty line. These families spend roughly 22 percent of their income on energy. They are the ones who will be left behind by this plan.
In February, I joined 43 of my colleagues in writing to Cheryl LaFleur, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, encouraging her to continue studying the effects of the president’s proposal. The letter, led by Reps. Brett Guthrie and Gregg Harper, also raised concerns about the cost and availability of affordable electricity in extreme temperatures, particularly during cold winter months.
I support an all-of-the-above energy plan, one that includes fossil fuels and renewables. Coal must be part of our energy portfolio, not just for the reliable energy that it generates, but the good jobs that it provides. I remain adamantly opposed to the president’s “Clean Power Plan” and will continue to look for ways to protecting the hardworking families that rely on affordable, coal-generated energy.
On May 7, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Patriot Act did not authorize the mass collection of Americans’ phone records, a victory for those of us who believe in protecting privacy rights. I have long been concerned about the erosion of the civil liberties of American citizens, especially since security contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret programs that allowed bulk collection of cell phone records without a warrant.
While the threat of terrorism is very real and must be addressed aggressively — now more than ever, given the rise of ISIS — I strongly believe we cannot allow the government to chisel away our freedoms out of fear. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It’s a delicate balance, but a balance we absolutely must fight to preserve.
I’ve consistently opposed proposals I believe make us less free — including the 2011 reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the 2014 version of the USA Freedom Act and the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that, in my judgment, suspended civil rights for any individual classified as an “enemy combatant,” even if they are an American citizen. One of the things that makes our country great — and distinguishes our legal system from other countries’ legal systems — is we give our citizens the right to due process. In other words, you have a fundamental right to know what charge you are facing and the right to a speedy trial if you are an American citizen.
This week, the House will again consider these issues by taking up the USA Freedom Act and the NDAA for fiscal year 2016. As I mentioned, I voted against the USA Freedom Act when it was considered last May. That version of the bill only limited the bulk collection of Americans’ cell phone records, and I believe we must completely end this practice. While the House Judiciary Committee significantly improved this bill by dramatically limiting the abuse of bulk phone record collection to protect citizens’ rights, I believe it would be better for American citizens’ civil liberties to let Section 215 authority expire and consider a reauthorization of Section 215 without the pressure of a deadline.
On Thursday, the House began consideration of H.R. 1735, the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. This critical bill authorizes important national defense programs and is consistent with the joint House-Senate budget. It reinforces our important mission to defeat ISIS and provides resources to stand strong against aggressors like Russia and Syria. I am also pleased this bill prevents any prisoner from being moved from Guantanamo Bay to a detention facility in the United States. Still, before I can make a decision on how I will vote, I need to read the final bill, including what amendments are included. If this bill compromises conservative principles in any way, I will oppose it. The amendment and debate process can fundamentally change a bill, so it’s important to closely monitor and engage in that process.
As long as I am a Congressman, you can rest assured I will fight to protect the civil liberties of all American citizens. If you are a citizen of this country you have certain rights and are entitled to due process — period. These core principles of liberty are what set us apart from totalitarian governments and I will continue to oppose proposals that nibble away at freedom. If we abandon the very principles that make America great, sooner or later we won’t have any freedoms left at all.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., represents the 1st Congressional District of Tennessee. Roe is currently serving his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
See the article here.
- On June 23, 2015